Tioman: PADI Open Water Course with Blue Reef Scuba

I’ve always had a thing for the water. I’m a water baby. I may not necessarily love the sun and it’s UV rays, but I do enjoy being in the water, swimming. I’ve also dabbled with flow-riding and barrel-riding at Wave House and it’s on my bucket list to learn surfing one of these days.

I’ve always thought diving was too dangerous for me to really pursue. I heard so many stories about dives gone wrong and it sends a shiver down my spine to hear them. I’ve also heard of friends who had problems “equalizing” during their dive and experienced some pain caused by the pressure difference when descending. I have a sinus problem, so I was even less convinced that diving was for me after hearing all of these things.

But then came my friend, SL, the dive evangelist. He’s one of my close friends from secondary school and we tend to meet up quite often with our clique to catch up. A couple of us (including SL) planned a trip to Cebu in June and that was when he started talking about how much fun diving was. He was hooked on diving and you could just hear it in the way he gushed about each dive trip. There was so much anticipation in his voice. I was surprised to find out that he had already completed his PADI advanced open water certification. PADI is one of the world’s largest dive training organisations and the certification issued by them is internationally recognised. He was so into scuba diving that he was already working towards becoming a master diver. That level of enthusiasm was super infectious.

I let the thought swim in my head for a bit before I broached the idea to Loo and G and it wasn’t long before we arranged to take our Open Water. SL recommended Blue Reef Scuba for their flexibility and weekly dive trips making it the most convenient option for us busy working adults.

There were three parts to getting our Open Water certification. We needed to clear two theory lessons at Blue Reef Scuba with a theory test, two sessions of practical, and finally take a 3D2N weekend trip to Pulau Tioman, Malaysia to complete a pre-requisite number of dives during which we needed to show we were able to do all required skills.

Theory classes were available every Monday and Tuesday while practical sessions were conducted at Outram Secondary School every Wednesday and Thursday. For the dive trips, Blue Reef Scuba departs from Singapore on Friday evening and returns back on Sunday night. You can choose to do all your sessions within a week and head straight for the dive trip component or opt to do your practical and theory sessions on different weeks. As they organise classes weekly during dive season, Blue Reef Scuba is probably one of your best bets if you, like me, require flexibility due to a busy schedule. The total Open Water Course fee ($599) includes not only the classes, the trip but also all gear you’ll be using (e.g. wet suits, fins, masks, Buoyancy Control Device, regulators etc). This is payable in two parts: an initial deposit of $200 and remainder before embarking on the trip. You can also opt to pay everything up front.

We had two options when we signed up, Live On Board and Resort. Live On Board involves staying on a boat for the entire dive trip. It’s apparently quite an eye-opening experience. Being too pampered for the wild ocean (and worried that we might be too sea-sick if we were on-board a boat for the whole trip), we chose the Resort option instead.

We were warned that the resorts at Pulau Tioman are mostly basic accommodation and to not expect a five-star beach resort experience. So we were prepared for no frills accommodation during the trip, but seriously the resort, where we put up at (can’t even remember name), resembles like a run-down chalet without much maintenance – the shower head barely had a stream of water running from it.

That said, other than cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes and pests, the resort surrounds still look pretty decent. We just had a really badly maintained chalet room which four of us shared. We even found toe nails from God-knows which previous resort guest on the bedroom table, uncleared bins and a bathroom sink that was dislodged from the wall and threateningly moving from side to side if we exerted too much pressure. Needless to say, water pressure from the sink faucet was pathetic as well.

Well, let’s just say the resort experience was “eye-opening” in it’s own way. I hate to sound like such a princess, but this was probably an even more challenging environment than camping during OBS in my secondary school days.

Meals are provided, so you can expect very basic breakfast (roti and butter spread, boiled eggs and similar variants), box lunch on-board, and simple dinner everyday but on the last day, do provision some Ringgit so that you can have some delicious food from the nearby stores like Ramley Burgers, Roti Prata and so on.

Every morning starts off really early (waking up for breakfast between 7:30am to 8:00am) and for us even more so with the terrible shower facilities in our “chalet” room.

Basically, over the next two days, you complete around four dives. During those four dives, you undergo a skill test to see if you’re able to perform them in open water and if your dive instructor finds that you are proficient, you pass and you get to send in your PADI application form endorsed by the dive school.

Do note that a lot of the skills you perform require some degree of water confidence. (e.g. Filling your mask with water, removing your mask in open water, putting it back on and flushing it, finding neutral buoyancy etc)  Most instructors are quite patient and they will slowly guide you even in open water when you’re going through the skill tests.  Don’t panic, continue to breathe deeply through your regulator and you’ll be fine! Also, no consumption of alcohol until you’re done with all your dives.

This is our instructor, Wei Xiong (whom Loo is completely bullying with her humongous Minute Maid Juice Bottle). He’s a hoot seriously; a really fun guy. The photos below say it all.

Diving with Blue Reef Scuba is pretty relaxing because of the great instructor assigned to us. He made all the dives enjoyable, ensuring we weren’t drifting too far when we looked like we were having a hard time finding “neutral buoyancy” and just making sure we were always together as a group. I mean when you’re just starting out, it’s really not as easy as it seems and there may be a bit of “floating off” without realizing. So it’s great that they were so on the ball and constantly watching out for us. It also helped that the group wasn’t massive and just about the right size.

Just a Note of Caution: Diving is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

I do get motion sickness, but luckily for me I didn’t have a hard time on the trip and hardly felt unwell because of all the rocking on-board. We spent quite a number of hours on the boat each day because there would be times we needed to wait until we could do our next dive (to avoid Nitrogen Narcosis, which is something you’ll learn about when you go for Dive Theory) so even if you’re seasick, you’ve got to wait it out. No joke.

Thanks to SL and his awesome GoPro, we got some nice photos of several dives we did.

I was feeling pretty calm actually when we were doing our skills assessment. I thought I would be panicking a bit more but I made it past even the most challenging aspect (to me), mask removal, replacement and flushing. I did have to re-do it. I choked a bit on seawater while doing mask clearing because I was too excited and nervous at the same time.

It’s not all doom and gloom during a skills assessment. I’ll be frank, it was pretty fun. In between different skill sets, we took some time to look at the sea creatures among the corals and just enjoy the ocean. We spotted quite a few different types of fishes (including Clownfishes hidden in the Sea Anemone) and even a very magnificent Sea Turtle.

When you’re underwater, in your wet suit, relying on your fins and oxygen supply, you really realise how SMALL you are as a single human being. When you look up and around and see the fishes swimming in a school almost ready to engulf you or a defensive Trigger Fish in the distance, you suddenly really see that you’re not so “invincible” after all. There’s so much of the deep seas no one has explored yet and even as you learn to dive, you only scrape the “surface” of the mysterious deep. There is so much you might never discover even within this lifetime. It’s crazy and humbling.

Before you know it, your dive trip is almost over and you’re a certified Open Water Diver.

I can’t believe I completed my PADI Open Water Certification in a blink of an eye. It was months since I first dabbled with the idea, waiting to be realized and the moment it was decided that we should go for it, wow, all the theory sessions, practicals and even the trip, flew by in a heartbeat. As with all things in life, before you really set your heart on something, it always seems so far away. The moment you just close your eyes and commit to the idea, it becomes an action and you’ve then made it happen.

I guess this qualifies as #appropriateuseofyolo!

I can’t wait to dive again in Cebu this June and I’m sure there’s something being planned with Loo and Adorbs in July. Let’s see how this diving hobby goes. I have so many expensive hobbies as it is.

Blue Reef Scuba
42A North Canal Road, Singapore 059298 (Opposite Clarke Quay Central)

Open Mondays to Tuesdays from 1:00pm to 9:00pm

Open Wednesdays to Fridays from 1:00pm to 6:00pm

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2 Responses to Tioman: PADI Open Water Course with Blue Reef Scuba

  1. Ang Hua Yee July 5, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    Dear Sir/Mdm,

    Hope to enquire if there are online theory classes for blue reef scuba?

    Hope to hear from you again, regards.

    • hy July 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

      Apology, I was browsing quickly I thought this was the official website. But I’m inspired by your post to do diving someday. Love the underwater pictures.

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